Another Day, Another GPL Win

Xterasys settles a suit filed by the Software Freedom Law Center regarding GPL violations involving the BusyBox tool set.

During the last several months, the Software Freedom Law Center has gone on the warpath to defend the GPL. On Dec. 17, the SFLC announced its second win in its four lawsuits against companies it says have violated the General Public License, as Xterasys, a Wi-Fi OEM, has agreed to settle.

The SFLC had filed this suit against Xterasys on behalf of the lead BusyBox developers, Erik Andersen and Rob Landley. BusyBox, licensed under the GPLv2, is collection of many popular Unix and Linux utilities, shrunk down to a useful size for embedded Linux programs. It is arguably the single most popular embedded Linux tool set, used in many embedded Linux projects and devices.

The developers and the SFLC sued Xterasys and High-Gain Antennas Nov. 20, saying the companies had violated the GPL provision that redistributors of BusyBox must ensure that downstream users of the program are provided with access to its source code.

While the case against High-Gain Antennas continues, Xterasys settled with the SFLC. According to the SFLC press release, "Xterasys has agreed to cease all binary distribution of BusyBox until SFLC confirms it has published complete corresponding source code on its Web site. Once SFLC verifies that the complete source code is available, Xterasys' full rights to distribute BusyBox under the GPL will be reinstated."

Xterasys also agreed to appoint an open-source compliance officer to ensure that the company complies with the GPL. In addition, this company executive will notify Xterasys customers of their rights to a copy of the BusyBox source code. Finally, Xterasys agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to the plaintiffs. Other details of the financial settlement were not disclosed, though it is believed to cover at least the case's legal costs.

In late October, Monsoon Multimedia also folded rather than face the SFLC in court over BusyBox GPL violations. High-Gain Antennas and the biggest alleged GPL violator by far that has been targeted by the SFLC, Verizon, have yet to announce official responses.

However, High-Gain Antennas has created a page that enables customers to download source code licensed under the GPL for its products, which is the SFLC's chief concern.

"Although we regret that we had to file a lawsuit, we are pleased that Xterasys will now comply with the GPL," Dan Ravicher, the SFLC's legal director, said in a statement.

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